By Tim Reid
(Reuters) - The brothel-owning, evangelical Christian-backed Republican Nevada state legislature candidate who nicknamed himself the "Trump from Pahrump," died on Tuesday, a local sheriff's office said.
Dennis Hof, 72, styled himself as America's best-known pimp, a strip-club owner who ran multiple brothels. His political rise reflected fundamental changes in electoral norms that have roiled the Republican Party and upended American politics during the era of President Donald Trump.
"This really is the Trump movement," Hof said in a June interview at Moonlite BunnyRanch, his brothel near his home in Pahrump, Nevada. "People will set aside for a moment their moral beliefs, their religious beliefs, to get somebody that is honest in office."
The Nye County Sheriff's Office said on its website that Hof had been found dead at one of his properties in Crystal, Nevada. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.
After Hof won the June nominating contest for a state Assembly seat, some evangelicals in his Republican-leaning district said they had voted for him because they believed he would clean up politics and not be beholden to special-interest groups and their money.
The thrice-divorced author of "The Art of the Pimp," who appeared on HBO's "Cathouse," owned a strip club and five legal brothels in Nevada, the only U.S. state with legalized prostitution. But the source of Hof's wealth did not deter his supporters.
"We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor," evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes said in June. "But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that."
For decades, evangelical voters have been a pillar of the Republican Party, using grassroots muscle to turn out votes and engage in political battles over hot-button social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
But in recent years, many conservative Christians have lost trust in establishment Republicans, whom they accuse of not fighting for values they feel are under attack in modern America.
Other conservative Christian voters were wary of Hof.
"For me, it goes back to faith and values," Paul Goulet, a pastor who leads the International Church of Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview earlier this year. "I can't wrap my brain around supporting someone who does that."
An investigation of three of his brothels turned up immigration violations and indications of possible human trafficking, local officials said earlier this month. Hof denied the allegations.
(Reporting by Tim Reid in San Antonio; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)